Southern football coach Dawson Odums reached out to former Jaguars defensive back Heishma Northern after Northern and his staff were fired at Prairie View on Monday.
“I called Heish and talked with him and just told him, ‘Hey, man, keep your head up,’ ” Odums said before practice Tuesday.
“In this profession you’re only so many losses away from this happening to you, so I understand. I’ve been through it, and if you coach long enough it will happen. So all you can do is encourage each other and try to keep our head up and keep moving forward.”
Northern’s four-year record at Prairie View was 19-25, including 5-5 this season. Southern beat the Panthers 34-24 on Sept. 20 in Prairie View, Texas. Northern was defensive coordinator at Prairie View for six seasons before becoming head coach.
Though Odums and Northern have not coached together, Northern has many local ties. A native of Baton Rouge, he graduated from Southern and Glen Oaks High School, where he also coached. Before going to Prairie View, Northern was an assistant at Grambling for seven seasons, acting as defensive coordinator the final five seasons.
“That just shows you what type of man he is,” Northern said of Odums, “to call and check on someone he is very competitive with. It took me by surprise, but then again it didn’t because that’s the way he is.”
Prairie View is in the midst of building a new football stadium and Northern said when the project was being developed, Odums gave him a tour of Southern’s facilities to learn the “do’s and don’ts” for the project.
Northern said he has received “a few calls” from colleges interested in him as a defensive coordinator. He said he’s “very seriously considering” pursuing a high school job so he can spend more time with his wife and their 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
Several of Northern’s assistants also have local ties, most notably his brother, Gabe, a former LSU player who rejoined the staff after the Panthers linebackers coach left five days before the start of this season. Gabe Northern played at Glen Oaks and was an assistant there as well as at Scotlandville High School and West Monroe High School.
Heishma Northern said his brother, who was defensive line coach with the Panthers in 2011-12, “immediately paid dividends” after returning as linebackers coach.
Two Prairie View linebackers are among the top three tacklers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Jerome Howard leads the conference with 118 tackles and Danny Brownell is third with 9.4 tackles per game.
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mark Orlando served in the same capacities with the Jaguars under head coach Pete Richardson for two stints (1993-2001 and 2004-09.)
Defensive coordinator Cliff Yoshida was defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for Southern in 1993 and held the same positions at Grambling from 2007-12.
Cornerbacks coach Raasaan Haralson is from Baton Rouge and graduated from Southern and Redemptorist High School. He was an assistant coach at Istrouma High School from 2000-04 and was a defensive graduate assistant at LSU in 2009.
Defensive backs coach Bubba McDowell, who played for the Houston Oilers from 1989-1994, was named interim head coach. “I wish to thank Coach Northern for his contributions to Prairie View A&M both on and off the field,” Panthers Athletic Director Ashley Robinson said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision but after careful review and consideration, I have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
Prairie View said it would immediately begin a national search for Northern’s replacement.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.